A single square was excavated (25 sq m; Fig. 2), yielding three stratigraphic phases associated with the Austrian post-office building and dating from the second half of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century CE. Following the excavation, additional archaeological inspections carried out at the site discovered the mouth of a water cistern and a feeder channel (L109, L110; below). No pre-Ottoman-period remains were unearthed, since neither the excavation not the inspection extended deep enough.
Phase A. A cistern (L107; 3.1 × 5.8 m; Fig. 3) was built of medium-sized limestone blocks bonded with a particularly hard material. The cistern, which had a barrel vault on an east–west alignment, was lined on the outside with flat stones. The cistern’s southern wall (L108; c. 1 m wide), made of a hard, casted material that contained roughly hewn, medium-sized stones, was incorporated into the vault. A late nineteenth-century Ottoman cooking-pot fragment was discovered inside the wall (not drawn).
The cistern’s original opening was square (L109; 1.2 × 1.2 m outer dimensions), and it was located near the east end of the vault. The opening was built of medium-sized dressed stones and was coated with plaster on the inside. Into the opening led a clay pipe, the base of which (L110; 1.3 m long) was uncovered. At the top of the cistern, on the west side of the opening (L111) and at the west end of the vault (L112), were two later breaches of unknown date. Building debris was thrown through these holes into the cistern, leaving piles of soil and stones inside it (Fig. 4). Another opening (L113) was breached in the southwest of the cistern prior to uncovering the earlier openings.
An east–west wall (W10; 3.17 m long, 1.06 m wide, preserved height 1.16 m) was built along the cistern’s southern wall (L108) and on top of it, apparently a later technical phase. The northern face of W10 was built of dressed, roughly hewn medium–large stones bonded with mortar. Its core was made of debesh containing white, lime-based bonding material with medium-sized and small fieldstones. The upper part of W10 was abutted on the north by a white calcareous surface (L104; Figs. 2: Section 1–1; 5), which extended above the cistern, but was preserved only in the east part of the excavation square. This surface abutted the lower part of the cistern’s opening from the south, and it may have served as a floor, apparently of a courtyard, which was in use along with W10 and the cistern.
The layers of fill covering the cistern and beneath the modern floor yielded pottery from numerous periods, from Iron Age II, including a fragment of a pillar figurine (Fig. 6), to the Late Ottoman period. The later finds included gray Gaza Ware, late types of tobacco pipes and imported British and German porcelain vessels dating from the latter half of the nineteenth century (not drawn).
Phase B. The northeast corner of a plastered square installation (L101; Fig. 7) was uncovered. The installation was set into the layers of fill that covered Cistern 107 (L103, L105) and abutted W10, and its construction cut through W10 (Fig. 8). The northern wall of the installation (2.2 m exposed length, 1.1 m preserved height) was set into the layers of fill; the wall was built of medium-sized fieldstones held together with a soil-based bonding material. While building the eastern wall of the installation (0.59 m exposed length), W10 was breached, and its stones were used to construct the installation; the plaster was applied directly on the ashlar in the wall stump. The installation was coated on the inside with particularly hard gray plaster (3–4 cm thick). The fill inside the installation was excavated to a depth of 0.74 m without reaching its floor.
Phase C comprised a concrete floor (L102), laid directly over W10, and a concrete wall (W11) that canceled out Installation 101. The finds from inside Installation 101—wine and beer bottles, rusty metal boxes, animal bones and porcelain ware from the mid-twentieth century CE (Fig. 9)—belong to this phase.
The excavation also yielded fragments of glass vessels (Ouahnouna, below), and two ancient coins, one recovered from the top of the vault of Cistern 107 and dating from the reign of John Hyrcanus I (IAA 154882), and the other—found in a fill (L103) and impossible to identify, but judging by its shape should probably be dated to one of the later Islamic dynasties.
Ten fragments of glass vessels were found in the excavation; six of these are body shards. Four indicative vessels from Fill 105 are represented here (Fig. 10). Two are dated to the Mamluk period, and two represent the twentieth century.
Fragment No. 1 (B1016-3) is the upper part of a bottle made of light greenish glass with an uneven rounded rim (diam. 4 cm), an elongated funnel mouth and a tooled-out tubular fold on the neck. It has a thick wall, and it bears black and silver weathering, iridescence and pitting. Bottles of this type are sometimes adorned with enamel and gilded decorations. These bottles appeared during the Ayyubid and Crusader periods and became more popular during the Mamluk period (see, e.g., Jenkins 1986: Fig. 49). Such bottles were found in the excavations at the Hospitaller Compound in ‛Akko, within Crusader contexts (Y. Gorin-Rosen, pers. comm.), and in a medieval hoard at Nicosia, dated from the thirteenth to the mid-fourteenth century CE (Flourentzos 1994:20, Pl. V:11, 12b, 12c).
Fragment No. 2 (B1016-1) is part of a small vessel, made of purple glass with remains of white marvering. The vessel is characterized by a solid beaded end with a pontil scar. It might be the upper part of a small lid, like the example from the Metropolitan Museum which is also decorated with a marvered pattern (Jenkins 1986: Fig. 50), or a miniature oil lamp; the constrictions between the body and the beaded end seem suitable for hanging an oil lamp in a metal suspender. This specimen bears the remains of a white marvered decoration, and judging by its fabric—purple glass, completely covered with black weathering and severe pitting—it can be attributed to the Mamluk period.
Fragments Nos. 3 and 4 (B1017, B1016-2, respectively) are two fragments of industrially made beakers from the late nineteenth or the early twentieth century CE. Their bases are very thick, and their bodies are molded and polished with a band of quadrangular sections on the external surface. No. 3 is a complete base, concave at the center, with the lower part of the wall. It is hexagonal in shape and is made of translucent purple glass. No. 4, made of clear colorless glass, is a fragment of a thick flat base and part of a polygonal body.
The excavation unearthed three stratigraphic phases associated with the history of the Austrian post office building. The earliest represents the original construction phase, and the two subsequent phases bear evidence of renovations that took place over the years.